Barring any discussion of the blockbuster trade that landed him here, there's no denying that Julio Jones has been an amazing addition to the Falcons offense in just his first two years. And at a position that is known for it's growing pains, no less. He has almost single handedly turned the Falcons into an explosive pass first offense, and his speed, size and ability have already garnered him league wide recognition and a pro-bowl berth in just his second year.
But just how good is Julio? How does he compare to some other great receivers in their first few years? Let's take a look at some big name receivers and how Julio stacks up. It may give us an idea of what we can expect to see out of him in year 3.
For our purposes, we're going to compare his stats in his first two years with those of Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Calvin Johnson and for contrast, his draft mate AJ Green.
As you can see here, Julio had a very solid rookie season, comparing favorably with everyone on this list, with the exception of Moss - who probably had the greatest rookie season of any WR ever. It was clear from the start that Julio was going to be explosive, and his 17.8 YPC puts him behind only Moss on this list - and well above the 15 YPC that is considered the "explosive" number for a receiver.
Julio continued to improve in his second year, again comparing favorably with the receivers on this list (remembering he missed some time due to injury). While his YPC dipped slightly, he was still in the "explosive" range and brought in double-digit TDs, en route to earning his first pro-bowl bid. Again, Randy Moss was an absolute beast from day 1 and Calvin Johnson emerged significantly as well. AJ Green also had an amazing year, proving that he and Julio were certainly worthy of being picked in the top 10 of their draft class.
When looking at the three receivers above, it becomes clear that year 3 does tend to be an even better year (note: C. Johnson missed 2 games that year). Moss continued his complete domination in year 3, while Owens put up 14 TDs and over 1000 yards receiving.
So what can we expect out of Julio in year 3? Well, he is still flanked by Tony Gonzalez on one side and Roddy White on the other, so I don't think we'll see 1500 yards from our star receiver. Even more so now that we have a versatile back in Steven Jackson who will likely take some receptions as well. That said, I don't think it's unreasonable to think we might see a stat line like this:
1360 Yards, 80 receptions, 17 YPC, 12TD
It's not a huge jump over year 2, but it follows the pattern of continual improvement by the other receivers on this list. However, let's not understate the stats either - if Julio puts up those kinds of numbers, he'll be making a return trip to the pro-bowl.
I'm excited about the potential for Julio in year 3, especially considering it will be on an even more balanced - and harder to defend - offensive system. How about you - is Julio set for another big year or will he fall back to earth?